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-Be honest in your responses.
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-Additional guidelines (web) writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/peeredit.html
Special Schools for Special Kids: A Parents Introduction to Special Education
Special Education is a term primarily associated with disabilities like autism and Down syndrome. Many public and private schools exist within communities around the globe specifically tailored to the needs of those children. The United States has legislation in place to make sure that the needs of these children are met at no cost to parents, as long as the child in question is of school age. Oftentimes, the media depict achievements and personal gains of such children to warm the hearts of society, but what about everyone else? What about a kid who struggles with school work or peers because their social and [or] emotional skills are not at the level they need to be in order to succeed? The purpose of this paper is to educate parents and their children about the educational opportunities available via private institutions that are tailored to meet the specific needs, both emotionally and educationally, of students who have otherwise been unsuccessful in the general school setting. The information provided will focus on specific classifications of emotional disabilities and their potential downfalls if not addressed, a brief history of the education system in America, acknowledge legislation currently in place, target risk factors that may impede a student's access to general education, identify the parent and schools role when determining placement, and how specialized private schools are beneficial to socially and emotionally disabled youth. To properly understand the ramifications of special schools in relation to general education one must know how the education system has evolved over the last century. What once was a barbaric approach to special needs has been significantly over-hauled by legislation in the mid 1970's. "Prior to legislation requiring public education for children with cognitive or emotional disabilities, deafness, blindness or the need for speech therapy, among others, parents had few options other than to educate their children at home or pay for expensive private education" (The History of Special Education in the United States). Out of the three million students with disabilities who attended public school, nearly half of those students went without any of their needs being met. Meaning, the students that required additional support, both emotionally and physically, where unable to obtain the required help needed in order to be successful.
The first big change happened in 1975 when President Gerald Ford increased the federal government's role in special education by invoking the Education of All Handicap Children Act. Over the year's several incarnations of legislation have been adopted by the United States. In 2004, the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Improvement Act (IDEA) had been implemented. "IDEA requires schools to provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities" (The History of Special Education in the United States). These laws coincide with the Free and Public Education (FAPE) to all children with disabilities. Meaning, parents don't have to pay out of pocket for their children's individual needs.
Even with legislation in place many parents have not capitalized on the vast opportunities available. It may be due to lack of parental involvement, denial, or the fact simply parents may not know disabilities show up in forms beyond physical abnormalities and brain damage. Myths such as, "all learning-disabled children have brain damage" (Science Direct), exist in modern culture. When in reality learning disabilities can occur even without brain damage. Popular culture may play a role in these stigmas. Oftentimes television, newspapers, and magazines strengthen the stereotypes. The results of these stereotypes may cause a parent to overlook their child's difficulty in school as simply acting out or just not being as smart as their peers.
Despite what a parent may or may not know in regard to special education, the child's school is also empowered to begin the necessary steps in identifying a child's specific needs. "The particular function of special education within the schools (and the education departments of other institutions) is to identify children with unusual needs and to aid in the effective fulfillment of those needs. Both regular and special programs play a role in meeting the educational needs of children with exceptionalities" (Council for Educational Children). Measures like this where implemented to help educate parents who may not know or understand what is happening with their child. Because many disabilities are not physical, and may not surface outside of school, teachers are empowered to detect behaviors that are deemed inappropriate in a general setting. Parents also have the chance to be proactive to ensure their child's needs are being met. "Under the law, parents have the right to challenge decisions about their child's eligibility, evaluation, placement, and the services that the school provides to the child" (U.S. Department of Education). Revisions and safeguards are implemented to benefit the students, but also to aid unknowing parents on the benefits and obligations the public school systems have.
When questioning proactivity, one must include the choice of programs or schools that their child by the degree of training the school puts in place for their staff. Typically, general education teachers do not receive adequate or frequent training regarding special needs students, ergo are not as effective when instructing students with different needs. "Student teaching and my college courses did not prepare me to properly work with children who have special needs. When I started working at the private school I obtained specific training and found myself surrounded by a plethora of staff who taught me the ins and outs that I needed to know in order to actually help my students grow" (Arneson, M.Ed). Many other public schoolteachers express the same difficulty when teaching students who require services above and beyond the typical needs of regular education. Schools' allot days solely to training its staff, but rarely is special education the topic of the training. "Teachers' preservice training is likely to focus either on content (for example history or math) or on a developmental stage (for example kindergarten). Teachers report lack of training to adapt the curriculum to individual students' special needs" (The Future of Our Kids). On one end students without disabilities may benefit from this type of training, but it leaves a lot to be desired for students with extra needs.
Evidence shows that special education teachers, and supporting staff who receive specified and additional training beyond their degree are more successful than educators within the public school system. Private education schools implement regular training as part of their overall procedures. "Graduates of traditional special education teacher programs had superior classroom practices compared to their counterparts from a university-district partnership and from a district add-on program" (Economics of Education Review). In addition, teachers who pursue a degree in special education are often time require having or continuing towards a more advanced degree within the field. Continued training offers more opportunities for educators to learn from other professionals and from each other in order to grow and expand their knowledge base within their field. Regular education teachers don't assume that they would have nor the ability to obtain the skills needed to work with special students within their own public facilities.
Training is not the only factor to think about when deciding whether a particular school is good for a child. Many factors include common classroom practices, and should be taking into consideration. Several private schools take extra steps [even beyond special education programs on regular school campuses] to accommodate and [or] modify a student's curriculum for the success of their students. Typically private schools are smaller in nature due to their enrollment guidelines. A smaller school, means smaller class size, ultimately creating a culture where student will get immediate attention deescalating behavior issues. Teachers are oftentimes expected to collect data, and monitor student progress on a regular basis. When issues do arise the teachers are able to use the data to implement a plan of action to keep the issue from becoming much more.
The demands imposed on public schools make it difficult for teachers to bend and sway to individual needs. Due to larger class sizes and strict curriculum guidelines teachers are more likely to teach to the average pupil. "Common classroom practices are those of which support the average learners. Large-group instruction is the norm, although individual and small-group assignments also occur" (The Future of Children). Even through the quote states that it is possible to break a class down into smaller groups and even individual task, it continues to imply that monitoring and giving feedback to the students is limited. There are more factors than class size that play into student accommodations. "Disruptive student behavior is a major concern of teachers (many would prefer to have disruptive students removed from the class). Furthermore, when observed, teachers demonstrate a limited range of techniques to modify disruptive behaviors" (The Future of Children). Many special need students who are in general education classes may have inappropriate behaviors that could disrupt the general population. In a situation like this neither students needs are being met.
Accommodating students can create an advantage that may not exist in a public setting. Private schools are also able to modify their curriculum in order to achieve continual student success. "Modifications allow students to create alternate projects or assignments . . . get graded or assessed using a different standard than one for classmates . . . learn different material" (Common Modifications and Accommodations). If the goal is to give a student as much access to general curriculum as possible, then the next natural solution, aside from accommodations, would be to modify parts of their work. Keeping in mind that one kid learns differently then another, private schools are given the green light to modify curriculum in order for the student to learn and retain, what is taught.
Parents who are on the fence about sending their child to a private school should also take into account other potential benefits aside from academics. Pupils that have access to individual interventions that include specialized strategies for learning and greater access to resources are typically more successful. These affects are apparent when reviewing discipline referrals and quarterly grades. These resources may range from individual clinical support to one-on-one behavior intervention. Educator, Adam Arneson M.Ed., with six years' of experience, two of which were in general education, had this to say, "In my experience special needs children can greatly benefit from a private organization such as the one I work for based on a few crucial factors. Students being placed in smaller classes open the door to individual attention, more structure, and a greater opportunity to learn positive behaviors rather than just receiving consequences." Teaching an adolescence why his or her behavior is inappropriate is a crucial piece to correcting what is deemed, inappropriate. Schools who take a clinical approach to correcting misbehavior follow a consequence driven model focusing on both positive and negative ramifications for the choices a child makes. Public schools often punitive approaches, meaning, if a student is disruptive he or she will be removed in order to restore balance in the classroom. Disciplinary actions like this may cause the disruptive student to fall behind and potentially annexed from school altogether.
Although there are numerous upsides to secluding a child from a public institution, it would be unfair not to include the potential drawbacks. Arneson continued with, "Students placed in a private school that emphasize on students social and emotional disabilities may include them being surrounded by negative influences, making it difficult to obtain the effects of positive peer modeling." When a district suggests that a pupil may need to be placed elsewhere they must include in the student's IEP (Individual Education Plan) any risk factors that may occur due to the changes. Most of the time peer modeling, also known as, Social Learning Theory, is the number one culprit as the risk. The overall benefits, in programs geared towards helping emotionally and socially disabled students have safeguards in place to diminish as many problems as possible.
In conclusion, there is no clear-cut answer when deciding placement for a child who has special needs. Every child is different and should approach with an open mind. Each disability comes with a gamut of questions as well and numerous solutions. These needs are protected by legislation and are guaranteed the most suitable placement to meet those needs. Overall, the most effective strategy is for a parent to be proactive and pay attention to the needs of their children rather than wait until the school system deems a child worthy of extra services. In addition, parents should keep in mind that they are not required to pay for any services related to their child, and are within their rights to ascertain solutions that satisfy the needs of their child. Even though social stigmas remain apparent, but will soon fade as more schools become available to meet the needs of the vast differences in education; many of which are unnoticeable to the naked eye. Evidence continues to support special schools who train their staff on a regular basis, accommodate, and modify its curriculum to meet individual needs have the greatest success, while public school acclimate to the conditions of the average student causing the ones who need extra attention to slip between the cracks. Even though there are downsides to lumping socially and emotionally disabled peers together. Most special schools are equipped to defuse abnormal situations. Many of the schools are set up to eventually mainstream students back into general population once they meet the goals and criteria that have been put in place. Special education in this day and age has come a long way. What was once considered a death sentence is now considered an opening to an entirely different world where children and parent's needs are addressed, and are given a voice, ultimately teaching students to their strengths.